This isn’t one of those ‘clickbait’ articles – I never though I’d be writing a post like this.
Last night was truly the most terrifying experience of my entire life.
Chris and I got in from a shift at work at about midnight. Chris had picked up some food on the way home. He’s currently on a batch of steroids to help stabilise the effects of his Crohn’s Disease and has recently had a really big appetite – in complete contrast to the norm. It’s really been so good to see him finish plates of food and come back and forth from the fridge.
We got in, I poured myself a glass of red and Chris sat down on the floor and began eating. I was casually scrolling Instagram and sipping my wine when I looked up. Chris was looking at me with sheer terror across his entire face. He was choking.
I got up and started banging on his back. Nothing happened. Saliva began to pour from his mouth and his nose, and I could hear that he couldn’t breathe, that his airway was completely closed.
I began to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre, and I saw the tiniest bit of food come out from his mouth, but he was still choking, still not breathing. I continued to give the Heimlich manoeuvre several times over. More saliva was coming out from his mouth, but it was now bloody. Chris had stuck his fingers down his throat to try and remove the food that was still blocking his airway. His face had completely ballooned, his eyes bulged, he was blue. I realised that Chris was going to die unless his airway was cleared soon. It had already been around 3 minutes without breathing. Then 4.
I screamed up the stairs for his parents and rang for an ambulance. The operator gave me advice on what to do and I relayed this to his parents who had taken over the banging on his back and Heimlich-ing. The operator told me to tell him to cough as hard as he could, and administer 5 back blows with the heel of the hand between his shoulder blades.
By this point, Chris was on his hands and knees and more food had come up from his throat. I could hear the ambulance and went outside to find them, and in the meantime, the operator had told us to put Chris in the recovery position.
By the time the paramedics got into the living room, his airways were clear and he was breathing: shallow, but breathing.
The paramedics cancelled another ambulance as apparently it’s usual to send 2 ambulances out for choking incidents.
They checked him over – listened to his chest, checked his airway, took his blood pressure. Asked how long he wasn’t breathing for. Thankfully they said that they didn’t think any of the food had entered his lungs.
I’m writing this because it could happen to anyone at any time and I want everyone to be aware of what to do in the situation – last night could have ended very differently.
I could tell instantly that this wasn’t just a case of ‘something going down the wrong way’ – his face was almost ‘stuck’ – he looked terrified and helpless.
The NHS advice for choking is listed on this page and I urge you ALL to please, please, please read it. It could save someone’s life one day.
If the airway is only partially blocked, the person will usually be able to speak or cough or attempt to clear their throat. Get them to cough as hard as they can. If this doesn’t shift anything, begin back blows with the heel of your hand between their shoulder blades.
If, like Chris, and their airway is completely blocked, get the person to lean forward slightly administer back blows. Again, begin the Heimlich manoeuvre/abdominal thrusts.
Stand behind the person who is choking.
Place your arms around their waist and bend them forward.
Clench one fist and place it right above their belly button.
Put the other hand on top of your fist and pull sharply inwards and upwards.
Repeat this movement up to five times.
If this has not cleared the airway, call 999 immediately. Keep administering the cycles of back blows and abdominal thrusts until the paramedics arrive.
I can’t explain how thankful I am to the 999 operator who spoke to me and kept me so calm while helping Chris, and to the ambulance and paramedics who arrived so quickly. I feel truly indebted. I am so grateful.
Hopefully, none of you will go through what we all did last night, but I hope you can all take a minute to read the advice on choking and what to do when it occurs.
This morning, Chris is absolutely fine – just a bit sore all over and drinking lots of tea.